A Selected Reading List for Pianists


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Sleeping in Temples
Out of Silence – Pianist’s Yearbook
Susan Tomes

Scottish pianist and acclaimed chamber musician (a former member of Florestan Trio), Susan Tomes writes sensitively and honestly about the exigencies of life as a pianist and performer – from the benefits of daily practise, to the pros and cons of memorization, finding appropriate concert clothes, significant teachers, audiences, the challenges facing classical musicians today, the links between music and health, how everyday life offers ideas for the task of understanding music, and many other topics which preoccupy a performing musician. Her insightful commentaries open an intriguing door into the world of the classical pianist.

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Piano Notes: The Hidden World of the Pianist
Charles Rosen

A revealing and highly readable book which illuminates the reality of being a pianist, whether professional or amateur, and the special appeal of an engagement with the piano. Drawing upon a lifetime of experience and accumulated pianistic lore, the late Charles Rosen demonstrates why the instrument demands such physical and mental prowess, and explores aspects such as the mechanics of the instrument and its sound, how pianists vary their posture, conservatoires and competitions, concerts and recordings.

Mozart and the Pianist

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Mozart and the Pianist
Michael Davidson

A practical guide to Mozart‘s major works for solo piano, including the Fantasies and Rondos. Analysis, historical context, performance practice, notes on ornamentation and suggestions for comparative listening make this an invaluable, informative and accessible guide for pianists and piano teachers.

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Sviatoslav Richter: Notebooks and Conversations
Bruno Monsaingeon

More than a memoir or biography, this book provides a unique glimpse into the life and mind of one of Russia’s greatest pianists through recollections of his life – including a surreal account of playing at Stalin’s funeral – and his influences and views on musical interpretation. He describes encounters with other great Russian performers and composers, while the second half of the book includes candid extracts from his personal journals: thoughtful and unguarded impressions of dozens of performances and recordings – his own and those of other musicians.

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank
T E Carhart

A delightful Francophile paean to the piano described through the author’s growing friendship with the owner of a piano workshop in Paris and his rediscovery of his passion for the piano as an adult, leading him to purchase a baby grand and take lessons again. The book is also a tribute to a dying craft in an age of mass-produced pianos. A must-read for pianophiles who are interested in the nuts and bolts of the instrument as well as the artistic aspects of it.


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Janice Galloway

Clara Wieck Schumann is given voice in this impassioned and intimate account of her struggle for self-expression and artistic creation during her complex and ultimately tragic marriage to Robert Schumann.

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‘The Concert Pianist’
Conrad Williams

A concert pianist’s mid-life crisis forms the basis for this novel which examines the mysterious relationship between the psychological and the physical which is at the heart of musical performance and pulls no punches about the exigencies of the life of the middle-aged classical musician today – coping with negative reviews, periods of self-doubt, crippling stage fright. At times bitingly accurate and darkly humorous, it is an engaging and insightful read.

An Equal Music
Vikram Seth

Beautifully written account of a reawakened romance between a violinist in a string quartet and a pianist. Aside from the love story, it is the descriptions of playing and hearing music which make this book so compelling. The author reveals a rare sensitivity to and understanding of the physical and emotional pleasure and pain of performing and sharing music. A highly absorbing book whose poetic narrative moves between London, Venice and Vienna.

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  1. I just finished reading “Body and Soul: a Novel” by Frank Conroy. It’s an engrossing story about a piano prodigy in mid twentieth century New York City. It deserves to be added to the list, I think.

  2. The art of piano playing, Heinrich Neuhaus. Particularly as a teacher, my go to book.
    A new, really fascinating read is The lost pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts

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